We learn about sexuality and relationships in many different ways. Some of our early lessons may come from family, religious leaders, our friends or from school. The media most likely has played a role in some of the messages we receive about sex and sexuality – some of those messages may have been empowering and others confusing, demeaning or even downright offensive. No wonder it’s difficult to know what we want and expect from a healthy relationship.
Most Intimate Relationships Don’t Just Happen
- Personal relationships need special attention if they are going to be healthy and satisfying. Consider the following:
- Know what you want. Know what qualities are most important to you and don’t settle for less.
- Talk. This includes active listening and speaking honestly.
- Arguing is part of a relationship. It is normal to have conflicts, however, a healthy argument never includes violence or threats.
- Set up agreements about your relationship.
You might agree to:
- Always be honest with one another.
- Talk openly about your feelings with each other.
- Always bring up what is bothering you and don’t just let things slide.
- Talk openly about sex. If sex is part of the relationship, you should talk about practicing safer sex.
- Maintain your autonomy in friendships and interests.
Keep in mind that:
- Good sex does not equal a good relationship. How often and how good your sex is doesn’t necessarily indicate the closeness or caring between people.
- Sex should be guilt-free. If either of you is feeling uncomfortable, you should wait.
- Prepare for sex. Spontaneous sex can be exciting, but if you prepare ahead of time, you can plan the time, place, food, and music to set the right mood. You can also ensure that your sex will be safer from unintended pregnancy and STIs, making the morning after as exciting and stress free as the night before.
- If pregnancy is a concern, know about birth control methods and use them consistently.
Making Sexual Decisions That Are Right for You
- You have choices: Not engaging in any sexual activity; some activity but not intercourse; sex now vs. sex later; self-pleasure, etc.
- Trust your gut: Know how you feel about sex and why you’re making your decisions; know that it’s okay if you just don’t feel ready.
- Talk to your partner: waiting can make you focus on caring about each other and getting to know each other first. This is a chance to re-evaluate your boundaries with your partner.
- Make sure you’re making conscious decisions: Don’t let them be made for you.
- Be proud of your decisions: Whether your decisions include not having sex or having any degree of sexual activity, be proud of your choice.
- Know that choosing to be sexually active for the first time could lead to a healthy relationship or to a decision to abstain the next time.
What Abstinence Can Mean:
- For some people it means not engaging in any form of sexual activity.
- For others it can involve sexual activity but not intercourse.
- Abstinence means drawing boundaries that make you comfortable.